“Don’t talk nonsense. I married Sanford of my own free will—”
“Yes, and in haste, and repented at leisure. Now, don’t be hypocritical, and pretend to grieve for him. His death was shocking—fearful—but you’re really relieved that he is gone. Why not admit it?”
“Alvord, stop such talk! I command you! I won’t listen!”
“Very well, dearest, I’ll stop it. I beg your pardon—I forgot myself, I confess. Now, let me atone. I love you, Eunice, and I’ll promise not to tell you so, or to talk about it now, if you’ll just give me a ray of hope—a glimmer of anticipation. Will you—sometime—darling, let me tell you of my love? After such an interval as you judge proper? Will you, Eunice?”
“No, I will not! I don’t love you—I never did and never can love you! How did you ever get such an idea into your head?”
The beautiful face expressed surprise and incredulity, rather than anger, and Eunice’s voice was gentle. In such a mood, she was even more attractive than in her more vivacious moments.
Unable to control himself, Hendricks took a step toward her, and folded her in his arms.
She made no effort to disengage herself, but said, in a tone of utter disdain, “Let me go, Alvord; you bore me.”
As she had well known, this angered him far more than angry words would have done.
He released her instantly, but his face was blazing with indignation.
“Oh, I do—do I? And who can make love to you, and not bore you? Elliott?”
“You are still forgetting yourself.”
“I am not! I am thinking of myself only. Oh, Eunice—dear Eunice, I have loved you so long and I have been good. All the time you were Sanford’s wife, I never so much as called you ’dear’—never gave you even a look that wasn’t one o f respect for my friend’s wife. But now—now, that you are free—I have a right to woo you. It is too soon—yes, I know that—but I will wait—wait as long as you command, if you’ll only promise me that I may—sometime—”
“Never! I told you that before—I do not want to be obliged to repeat it! Please understand, once for all, I have no love to give you—”
“Because it is another’s! Eunice—tell me you do not care for Elliott—and I won’t say another word—now. I’ll wait patiently —for a year—two years—as long as you wish—only give me the assurance that you will not marry Mason Elliott.”
“You are impossible! How dare you speak to me of my marriage with anybody, when my husband is only just dead? One word more, Alvord, on the subject, and I shall forbid you my house!”
“All right, my lady! Put on your high and mighty air, if you choose—but before you marry that man—make sure that he did not himself prepare the way for the wedding!”
“What do you mean? Are you accusing Mason of—”
“I make no accusations. But—who did kill Sanford? I know you didn’t do it—and Elliott has engaged Stone to prove that you didn’t. It is absurd, we all know, to suspect Aunt Abby—I was out of town—who is left but Mason?”